American women's marathoning is huge right now. Shalane Flanagan won the NYC marathon in November 2017 - the first American women to do so in 40 years. Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon in April 2018 - the first American woman to do so in 33 years. The 2020 Olympic Trials will be held in February 2020 in Atlanta, GA, and the top three finishers will represent the USA in the 2020 Olympics. There are already more than ten top contenders for those three spots, and many more trying to get there.
The World Record in the marathon for women is 2:15:25, set by Paula Radcliffe from the UK in 2003 in London. The runner-up time is 2:17:01, set by Mary Keitany from Kenya in 2017 in London. The American Record in the marathon for women is 2:19:36, set by Deena Kastor in 2006 (also in London). Clearly the London Marathon is a fast and flat course!
Although these records were set several years ago, today's American women marathoners are catching up quickly. Jordan Hasay set the fastest American marathon debut last year and is on track for incredible accomplishments. Molly Huddle, who holds the American record in the half marathon and 10k, recently moved up to the marathon distance and shows great promise. We also have Gwen Jorgensen, who was the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in triathlon, transitioning to the marathon and training with the best athletes in the country.
Here are the current top American marathoners with their age and fastest marathon times (along with the year they ran that time):
- Jordan Hasay (26), 2:20:57 (2017)
- Shalane Flanagan (37), 2:21:14 (2014)
- Amy Cragg (34), 2:21:42 (2018)
- Desiree Linden (35), 2:22:38 (2011)
- Kelly Taylor (32), 2:24:28 (2018)
- Laura Thweatt (29), 2:25:38 (2017)
- Sara Hall (35), 2:26:20 (2018)
- Molly Huddle (34), 2:28:13 (2016)
- Stephanie Bruce (34), 2:29:35 (2011)
- Allie Kieffer (30), 2:29:39 (2017)
It is so interesting to note the age range of these women, 26 to 37 years just between the top two. If done right, the marathon is truly a sport that you can train for many years. The average age above is 32.6 years, which shows you don't have to be 18 like a gymnast to perform well in the marathon. Shalane Flanagan and Desiree Linden just won major marathons in their mid-late 30's.
Two big marathons are coming up: the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2018, and the NYC Marathon on November 4, 2018. Here is the list of athletes running that have been announced so far:
- Chicago: Jordan Hasay, Amy Cragg, Laura Thweatt, Gwen Jorgensen.
- NYC: Shalane Flanagan, Des Linden, Molly Huddle, Stephanie Bruce, Allie Kiefer.
Many people wonder how these women are performing so well. There is a lot of speculation about performance enhancing drugs and illegal substances. I truly hope this is not the case, and I know the athletes undergo extensive drug testing. I believe the development and momentum of this large field of athletes is multifactorial including the excellence and growth of several team training groups with renowned coaches, advances in technology and nutrition, sponsorships allowing these athletes to be full-time runners, altitude training, and access to top resources including physical therapists and massage therapists.
I am excited to watch the Chicago and NYC marathons this fall. I know we can expect outstanding performances, and it is going to be a great battle to the Olympics in 2020. These runners provide huge motivation for those of us running beneath them, and they show marathon running is a long process that doesn't reward with quick results. You have to patient in chasing your dreams!
Desiree Linden, who ran her first marathon in 2007 and didn't have a monumental win until 2018, has a great quote about both running and life: "Some days it just flows and I feel like I’m born to do this, other days it feels like I’m trudging through hell. Every day I make the choice to show up and see what I’ve got, and to try and be better. My advice: keep showing up."